Need A Public Defender?
"The right to effective counsel is at the heart of our criminal justice system"
-- Witold Walczak, Director, Pittsburgh Chapter, ACLU
In this country, a person is presumed guilty until proven innocent. Procedures are used to insure easy prosecution and there is a disincentive for the prosecutor to make a reasoned determination of culpability. It is up to the citizen, often at great expense, difficulty, and often luck, to prove innocence. But the consequences of a guilty plea are too great.
--article from scn.org
I have a personal horror story with regards to my having to seek counsel from a Public Defender. I am not a minority,
I am Caucasian American citizen taxpayer who found himself charged with a petty crime. I had experienced a financial setback and
I was unable to afford private legal counsel. This matter involved a disagreement over a sum of $800. An attorney informed me his
fee to represent me in court is $5000. That's $5000 for an $800 matter. I was already aware that all I had to do to have the charges
dropped was to simply pay the $800. But I wanted my day in court. I had plenty of evidence to show that the other party owed me an
amount well in excess of $800. Negotiatons had broken down between me and the other party. They were instructed by their counsel to
simply have me arrested and this action would surely force me to settle.
Again, months of unreturned phone calls to my defender, trips to his office, and no satisfaction. I was informed I had better have the $800 by court day. It had finally sunk into my thick skull that I was not going to get any defense whatsoever from the Public Defender. And I could not afford private counsel. My business had taken a hit because of the actions of the party who had me arrested. I decided to settle the matter and pay the $800 to the court, which turned out to be $930 with court costs.
I couldn't even get a response from the Public Defender to settle the case. I went to the County Court Administrator, who had been helpful before in answering some of my questions. She made the arrangements to pay the
court and to have the charges dropped. The Administrator agreed with me that the Public Defender's office needs a major overhaul, told me that she is inundated almost daily with complaints about the Public Defender.
She said that it will take some disgruntled ex-client like myself to attend a County Commissioner's meeting and file a formal complaint. In Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, the Public Defender works directly for the
County Commissioners, and they provide complete oversight of it's goings on. County Commissioners! Elected public officials, farmers, businessmen, who have no legal training whatsoever. They have their own legal counsel,
paid for the taxpayers.
I want to mention that the local newspaper, the Sunbury Daily Item, didn't want to hear anything about my case. An expose would be more than they could handle. An article on the matter of how the Public Defender handles it's cases
just might result in a flood of rudely treated and wrongly convicted citizens to cause an uproar in this otherwise peaceful rural Pennsylvania county. A well kept secret with no voice to complain. Skeleton in the closet.
Don't rock the boat. Too hot to handle!
"If Innocent, Do Not Plead Guilty, Even to a Reduced Charge"